237: Possessed

Unreleased (1983) / Purple Rain Deluxe (2017)
Prince wrote Possessed after attending a James Brown concert, and later dedicated it to him on 1985’s Prince and the Revolution: Live. On this video, the song wears its influence fully on its sleeve, but the original studio version, recorded two years earlier, took Mr Dynamite to another level – James Brown 2.0: Spooky Electric Boogaloo. On this robo-funk groove, the Oberheim synths shimmer and the empyrean guitar-work is pure fire, but the lyrics go to a darker place as Prince rattles the cage of his inner suppressed demon and stokes his “satanic lust”. It’s the “I want you, I need you, I must have you” brand of pop where the tape is left running and all the worrying implications and subtext leak to the surface. This early incantation may have scared him as it was subsequently buried in a lead box before it broke free to live amongst the shadows of the bootleg world. A new version was recorded the following year and briefly cropped up in the background of a scene in Purple Rain, however it would be 33 years until we got to hear it in full. The lyrics were reworked to be less menacing (apart from a bizarre aside about tearing people into little pieces to sell as a jigsaw puzzle) but conversely, the music is infinitely more unsettling. Bassless and guitarless, the 1984 version flutters and trembles like the palpitations of a diseased mind. It’s a lot more experimental and will likely take up residence in the darkest corners of your dreams but unlike the 1983 original it forgets to inject the funk into its dysfunction.